You may be wondering, in an idle moment, just what you have to do to become the 677th richest person in the world. Here's a tip, start a company flogging mobile phones and once you've got the hang of selling things with impenetrable contracts buy an internet service provider on the cheap. Then you can recline on your yacht, safe in the knowledge that all your customers are locked into paying for what is probably the worst service in the country, condemned to a hell of queued calls to customer service manned by people with scripts who have no more clue about the problem than the customer. Well, that's a bit unfair on the customers actually; of course AOL technical support know less about the issues than we do.
Step forward one Charles William Dunstone who is the Chairman of the TalkTalk Telecom Group. Mr Dunstone founded Carphone Warehouse and has just joined the board of Jensen. Well, there's a car who's reliability and build will equal the internet service provided, or not as is more often the case, of AOL which is owned by TalkTalk.
AOL used to be the best provider in the UK by a country mile, now it is the worst. Speeds have fallen and customer service is provided by some well meaning, polite but mostly clueless people in Bangalore, New Dehli or wherever they are. The best thing is, when you want to speak to the cancellation people you suddenly get put through to some silver tongued Irishman................. play hard though and they simply quote the terms and conditions. No one at AOL is actually interested in helping solve problems or taking ownership of them, they spend most of their time searching for reasons why it might be the customers fault.
In my own case, my connection speeds have steadily fallen to a slow crawl that means it would be quicker to select one of my labradors at random and teach it quadratic equations with a slide rule than it is to download the AOL customer services page. For the technically minded amongst you that is sub 0.05 MB when I'm paying for 8MB. I've had BT out to check the line, (£200), and bought a new router, (£60), and eliminated just about every other possible issue that might be my responsibility................. still the bastards are wriggling. Two weeks and I still can't get a straight answer, oh and here's a good one - I'm still paying them and must do so for 28 days until they conclude that they haven't been able to fix it and I don't have to pay.
Interestingly, the cunning bastards will only check your line if you use one of three recommended routers. Each of the three is pretty basic and most consumers would naturally buy a better one but no - if you don't have one of these three then they won't help.... even if their technicians admit quietly that there is no issue with the router given they can see the settings.... it's just another get out of jail excuse. Incidentally, try finding the names of these routers on their web site and you could be there a while.
In a moment when I thought I might be on the edge of insanity, driven there by these Alice in Wonderland fantasists, I checked the web for other comments on AOL. Guess what,
"Avoid at all costs! How this company is still in business is beyond me! After 7 months of connection problems and hours wasted talking to tens of level 1 and 2 technicians who verbally admit fault is with their servers but fail to type it into the notes, (because this would allow me to be released from my contract) I have finally switched to O2."
"Constantly losing connection and slow is not the word. Support from India useless. Looking for a better supplier at the moment. Beware if you thinking of taking up AOL."
"Never been with any other ISP than AOL, and quite frankly, I wish I'd never signed up with them"
"I have been with AOL for going on 10 years now and have to say that up until carphone warehouse took over they were ok, but since then it has been absolute rubbish"
" It is hard to believe that AOL can have gone down so rapidly. They have outages galore and almost everlasting slow evening broadband speeds, frequently well below 1mb. Their reliability is so poor that one star flatters them."
"My partner just joined aol - never should have. Useless customer service, appalling tech help,expensive phone lines, cut off 4 times over three hours, still no service. Talk Talk are appalling"
"AOL is the worst provider ever. If you could give zero rating then it would be too much."
Enough..... yes that's enough. They are quite simply the very worst of breed and I would avoid them as you would an angry rabid dog. If you have a pacemaker, heart problems or high blood pressure you will literally be risking your life getting involved with these muppets.
You may of course be wondering, "How do I check my own line speed....?" I'm here to help - just click "Start speed test,":
Meanwhile, I shall continue to attempt to get my MAC code and unshackle myself from AOL's contract after 15 years of what was mostly, reasonable service. It took something special to blow that up.... but then I don't have a yacht.